The House of One has a new partner. This Berlin foundation will support the Peace Academy in the Republic of Georgia in its interreligious peace work even more intensively than before. On June 9th, Gregor Hohberg, member of the Steering Committee of the House of One Foundation, and Malkhaz Songulashvili, Archbishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia (EBCG), signed a cooperation agreement in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia.
The signing, which included the three bishops Malkhaz Songulashvili, Rusudan Gotsiridze and Illia Osepashvili (all EBCG) as well as Pastor Hohberg (House of One), sealed and strengthened the cooperation. It was preceded by a week of intensive meetings, religious services, and events. We call the cooperation the Peace Academy House of One Partnership. It is the second contract of its kind that the House of One has entered into with an interreligious institution located in another country. The first and still on-going cooperation is with the Peace Platform in the Central African Republic.
The Peace Cathedral is being created as a part of this collaboration in Tblissi. Similar to the House of One in Berlin, it will be a place of meeting and worship for several religions. The Protestant church already exists; the Mosque is under construction, and the teaching room for all religions is almost done. Imam Akbar—from a Shiite community in Iran—has been advising the EBCG and exchanging ideas with Bishop Malkahz and Pastor Hohberg on the design of the future mosque and the teaching room.
During his stay, Minister Hohberg and Archbishop Malkahz visited several partners and companions of the Peace Academy. For example, the religious leaders were invited to break the Ramadan fast with a Shiite community in Tblissi. The celebration culminated in an evening prayer with members of different religions side by side. Imam Akbar said, “We are very thankful that our friends from the House of One are visiting us and pray with us. In prayer we experience a peaceful connection to one another.”
On the Orthodox Feast of Ascension, people of different religions gathered in the middle of a beech tree forest near Tblissi to celebrate. This gathering expressed the solidarity between the attendees as well as between people and nature. “Here in the forest we experience that we are living beings indiscriminate from one another in that we are all dependent upon nature and rely upon the respectful treatment of one another, regardless of our cultural or religious background,” Minister Hohberg said in his contribution to the celebration..
In Marneuli, a predominantly Muslim city in the center of Georgia, Minister Hohberg was invited to attend a festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. The mayor of Marneuli as well as the local Imam Hadshief publically acknowledged this visit from Germany. Bishop Malkhaz said in his greeting, “Dialogue lives from personal encounter, from exchange, from celebrating together. Every encounter brings us further along, even when thousands of kilometers lay between the partners’ home cities. We experience that we are not alone; there are peace-loving dialogue partners worldwide.”
The House of One and the EBCG have worked together since 2015. Since then, the members of both these institutions have engaged in a continuing exchange on their experiences of interreligious dialogue. For example, together, we have made prayers and events with Shiites, Sunnis, Yazidis, and Jews from Georgia and the Caucasus region possible.
The House of One supports the Peace Academy in particular ways, such as helping organize multi-religious youth camps. This joint work has been formalized and strengthened with the signing of the cooperation agreement. The Peace Academy as a project: brings together Christian, Muslim, and children of other religions, breaks down prejudices, and encourages friendships across religious boundaries.
The Peace Academy is located in the Betheli Centers in Tbilissi, the capital of Georgia. The Academy is led by Bishop Ilia Osepashvili and female Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze. Originally founded to combat the social and religious hostility against Muslims and non-Orthodox Christians in Georgia, the Peace Academy has been committed to religious understanding, reconciliation, and peace between all religious communities for many years. Known for their openness, the Peace Academy welcomes all people to join in their work including individuals of historically marginalized groups, such as women and people in LGBTQI communities.
At the House of One we believe that we are stronger together. We have partnered with the Peace Academy because we know that global interfaith work needs help to be made long-lasting and sustainable. Here are some of the EBCG’s and the Peace Academy’s projects that we support through this partnership:
Similar to the House of One, the Peace Cathedral is in the process of creating a space for Jews, Christians, Muslims, and people of other traditions such as Yazidis to pray and meet. Located in Tbilisi, the Peace Cathedral will be transformed into a multi-religious space with a room for Muslims and another for Jews and people of other traditions. In this way, encounters and exchanges between religions will be promoted.
In the spring of 2018, seven students associated with the House of One traveled to Georgia to learn from their peers at the Peace Academy. Nine students from the Peace Academy joined them, as they took part in discussions about interreligious life in the area and experienced a religious service in the Peace Cathedral. This year students of the Peace Academy will join us in Berlin for a similar experience at the House of One. Under the new partnership, these exchanges will be built upon into an educational program – The “Young Ambassadors of Interreligious Dialogue” Program which will include: the creation of a Young Ambassador Charter, a permanent youth exchange program, educational interfaith summer camps, as well as interfaith art and theater groups.
In 2018, The Peace Academy with the House of One’s assistance launched a Women’s non-violent Communication Pilot Program, in cooperation with female Bishop Rusudan Gotsiridze. This program aims to promote non-violent communication and women’s empowerment by training women as conflict mediators. These women learn tactics to lead conversations about interreligious topics within their families, as a way to enable a larger societal conversation about what it means to live peacefully with others of different religions. The pilot program focused on training young Muslim women from different regions of Georgia who will serve in the future as trainers of the future generations of mediators and conversation starters.
Just like the Peace Academy/EBCG and the House of One have learned from one another, we want to share this knowledge with others. The reconciliation work the Peace Academy has done will help spark ideas for similar projects in other parts of the world. With the help of Georgian academics and researchers we will address questions such as: what can we learn from this work? What recommendations can be derived from it? What can we learn about the foundations for non-violent resistance?
Results from our collaborative research will be presented during an international conference in November 2019.
Renate Franke – email@example.com
Women’s Non-violent Communication Project
Frithjof Timm – firstname.lastname@example.org
All Other Projects